Eight weeks since competing in the searing heat of Sepang, the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has travelled to its furthest location on the 2008/9 calendar, and a country of outstanding natural beauty, for round four of the championship - New Zealand.
For the first time since joining the series Team Monaco participated in the Friday morning ‘rookie’ free practice sessions with Hubertus Bahlsen, co-seatholder of the team, having his first run in an A1GP powered by Ferrari car. Hubertus, one of 17 ‘rookies’ who took to the track for the first 30-minutes running, enjoyed his time in the car, however his running was restricted due to problems with fitting inside the cockpit. The team has already constructed a plan to implement for the South Africa event. Hubertus handed over the Friday practice programme to regular driver Clivio Piccione for the afternoon session.
Clivio took to the track for the second practice session (14:00 local time) and focused on familiarising himself and the car with the 3.32 kilometres long track, one of the narrowest on the A1GP calendar. A number of spins by other teams and Red flag situations caused intermittent running throughout the session, however Clivio’s pace remained constant and Team Monaco was running in P10 with only 15 minutes of free practice 2 remaining. For its final outing the team concentrated on car set-up in the short amount of track time it had left and on his final lap, Clivio set a fastest time of 1:16:458 to cross the finish line in an encouraging 4th position, with only an 0.487 second gap between teams Monaco and Switzerland who topped the timesheet in P1.
Clivio Piccione, Driver and Seat-Holder: “Our programme this afternoon was for us to start getting used to the track on our first and second runs, but unfortunately the red flags meant that we were unable to try the set-up for a while. I enjoyed the track, however; it was quite ‘green’ and slippery, but many people were coming off at the corners. Toward the end of the session we were able to run through our full programme and at end of our final run I had some clear laps and was able to push the car. I am very happy that we were able to improve our time and move up the grid. To finish overall in 4th position is one of our best positions in a free practice session so far in the championship, so we have made a good start to the new year and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Graham Taylor, Team Principal: “We are very pleased to have been able to take part in the rookie practice session this morning, with Hubertus in the car for the first time. It was a difficult practice session this afternoon as it was interrupted by so many red flags. However, we did finally receive the opportunity to evaluate a number of options and we put in a great final run. The team did a good job today and it feels good to finish a session in the top six.”